Breeder investment in offspring reflects a trade-off between the benefits realized from current reproductive efforts and the benefits expected from future reproductive opportunities. When assisted by nonbreeding helpers that provide care for offspring, breeders may modify reproductive investments to minimize the costs of producing offspring, or in ways that maximize produc- tivity and offspring survival. How helpers assist breeders can vary with different stages of reproduction, and how breeders alter investment in response to helpers may change depending on the stage of reproduction. We assessed how helpers contribute to reproduction and how breeders alter their investment in response to helper contributions in the cooperatively breeding brown- headed nuthatch (Sitta pusilla). We assessed helper contributions across three stages of reproduction: (1) nest excavation, (2) maternal egg production, and (3) nestling care and development at days 8–12 post-hatching, a period of rapid nestling growth. We also investigated how breeders responded to helper contributions and the relationship of helper behavior with breeders’ repro- ductive success. Helpers contributed to offspring care but not nest excavation. Breeders assisted by helpers did not alter investments in nest excavation, offspring production, or offspring care. As a result, offspring raised by cooperative groups received more food and
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 23, 2018
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